The Download: Josh Owen, CEO, Cycle Labs

Josh Owen is a co-founder and the CEO of Raleigh-based Cycle Labs. Prior to Cycle Labs, Josh founded and led the Raleigh-based global supply chain consulting firm Tryon Solutions through 12 years of organic growth. It was at Tryon where he also led the development of the Cycle product from its idea phase to the valuable enterprise continuous-testing platform it is today, officially spinning off as a standalone startup in July, 2021. [Editor’s Note: We wrote about Cycle Labs’ launch as a standalone company here.]

1. What is in your pockets?

I carry a pocket knife every day. I’m also a big fan of analog tools when it comes to notetaking. I like to actually write something down on paper as opposed to always typing it on my phone. I always carry a Fisher Space Pen, a bullet pencil and Apple airpods.

I also carry every day what we call a Cycle Labs challenge coin. It sort of hails from branches of the military and police departments. One of our employees made some of these for us, and they have our core values printed on them. So every employee at Cycle Labs gets one with their hire number on it. So I’m No. 1, and everybody gets their position. If you are meeting up with someone else at Cycle Labs at lunch or drinks and you don’t have yours, but they have theirs, then you’re buying.

2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

Cycle Labs is a software and services company. We build software that is referred to as test automation software. It’s software designed to test and validate the quality of other software. We focus on the enterprise. When people think about test automation, you think about building software from the ground up, but our clients actually are consumers and users of existing packaged software.

The software that we test is what we refer to as a software system. They will buy different SaaS or packaged solutions integrated together and form a system that drives their mission-critical business processes. Our automation tests these larger, more complex software systems, primarily in the supply chain space. What we attempt to do for our clients is alleviate the concerns of business risk so they can focus on business growth, that is, give them an objective way to measure risk when they’re introducing change into these systems. That allows them to introduce more iterative change, to experiment with things, and to grow the company without wringing their hands over what problems might be introduced.

We recently had our one-year anniversary. We launched last July. There’s a lot of commercial success to be excited about. We’ve grown revenue about 300% since we launched, and certainly, that’s exciting. But really what excites me most daily is watching and experiencing our team’s commitment to the culture that we’ve built.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?

I’m a big coffee fan. My wife and I used to live in Tampa Bay. And when we lived there, we would go to this place called King State coffee in Tampa. It’s unbelievable. So when we moved back up here from Florida in 2018, we wanted to find something like that. My go-to is a place off of Oberlin (in Raleigh) called Idle Hour Coffee.  It’s small and the coffee is fantastic. Also they have great pastries, doughnuts, and food.

4. What keeps you up at night?

Unfortunately, there’s a lot to be concerned with. I don’t know if you watched, but yesterday’s inflation report shows that that’s still remaining pretty high. We work with large enterprise companies, global companies, and thus far, we haven’t been affected directly. We work in the supply chain, which is a strong space, but it’s not an invincible space. So there is a chance at some point that these economic challenges and slowdowns will trickle down into slowing down a project and things like that, and the supply chain space. Right now it’s pretty hot. So that’s not been a direct concern. This was more of a macroeconomic concern.

But ultimately, I think what really truly worries me for our business is with all of that going on and knowing that we’re incredibly busy, I just know there’s a lot of pressure on our employees. There are these at-home things that they’re worried about with inflation and the economy and all of that, and then we’re very busy, and so I know there’s a lot of pressure on them. And so I worry about how attuned they are to emotional burnout. I think from a leadership team perspective, we daily and weekly try to make sure we’re having conversations to pay attention to how our employees are doing emotionally and do everything we can to protect them and prevent that from occurring within the organization.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

Like coffee shops, there are a lot of great options in Raleigh, but my wife and I really love Stanbury. It’s downtown near us. I don’t know if they consider themselves a tapas restaurant, but mostly we eat small plates there. It’s a really nice atmosphere. You can have high-end fantastic food without it feeling like a stuffy environment.

The Cycle Labs team at a Durham Bulls game

6. What is next for you or your organization?

Certainly, we want to continue the growth that we’ve experienced in the first 12 months. For us to scale as fast as we want and deliver the highest value for our clients, then we have to rely on customer relationships and channel partnerships. Channel partnerships to help us resell and implement the software that we build is going to be a big part of our growth strategy.

We’ve recently launched a new partner model that is proving to truly maximize value for our partnerships. Our belief is that that value will ultimately be returned to us many times over and so our focus is on providing value to our partners or resellers and implementers.

We’re doubling down on our partnerships. We’ve got some really exciting ones that we just closed, some that we’re working on now. We’ll hopefully be announcing them here in the coming months. And some of them are actually with more local Raleigh companies.

About Brooks Malone 92 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.